Page 0470


composed in alternate iambs and trochees, dipped in the bitterest wit and sarcasm, to the

extent of driving to suicide (such is the tradition) those against whom the poisoned

arrows were sent flying. Even greater and fiercer in invective was the poet HIP^ONAX, who

flourished about the middle of the sixth century, and is said to have satirized to death

two sculptors who had caricatured his ugliness.

After the iambic came the MELOS, or song. This style of poetry was mostly cultivated by

the Aeolian and Dorian bards, who were celebrated for the tenderness of their emotion and

feeling. In this species of verse the singer expressed his own joys and sorrows, his

longing and hope. It was from Mitylene, the capital of the island of Lesbos, that the song

proper took its rise. In Greece of the mainland it was admired rather than imitated. But

there was a Lesbian school where this style of composition was encouraged and taught. Here

flourished the aristocrat ALC^EUS, who, in his songs of love and hate, poured out the

passion of his times. Here the great SAPPHO, the angel of unrequited love, achieved in her

passionate and beautiful hymns the highest place among all the poetesses of Greece. The

story of her suicide by leaping from the Lucadian rock because of Phaon's neglect seems to

have no foundation in fact. She was a mother who loved her child and taught a school of

maidens, instructing them in choral measures and the beauty of the dance. Her poems flow

with a tender and glowing love, the truest and deepest passion, the most graceful and

tuneful sentiments. After her came ANACREON of Teos, almost equally celebrated, but

flourishing in a different atmosphere. He was an Ionian hard, and had the luxurious grace

and abandonment of his people. Living at the courts of tyrants, and knowing little of the

deep, pure charms of nature, he gilded artificial life and celebrated artificial love.

Even in his old age, when the fires of youth were extinguished, he continued to sing in

words the songs from which the spirit had long since vanished. But by far the greatest of

the Greek lyric

poets was the Boeotian PINDAR. He was born in B. C. 522, and was thus a contemporary of

Aeschylus. His education was Attic, but the inspiration of his muse seems to have been

caught from a predecessor, the Sicilian STESICHORUS, of Himera, who flourished near the

close of the seventh century. Pindar's harp had many tones. He sang in manly cadences of

public and private life; the struggles and vicissitudes of the one, the hopes and fears of

the other. In his odes he rises to the highest flight. The victors in war and in the great

games enacted in the presence of the assembled nation are made famous in his heroic song.

The style is involved and difficult, but the spirit is the spirit of fire. He was the

evening star of the lyric poetry of Greece. A change was passing over the national

imagination, and the dawn of the drama was in the eastern sky.

The Greeks now demanded the poetry of action. The transformation from lyric to DRAMATIC

was easy and natural-necessary. From the ecstatic song representing the joys and

sufferings of others to impersonation was but a step. The Greek chorus belonged alike to

lyric recitation and dramatic action. The transformation was gradual. THESPIS of Attica

was the first tragic poet. His claim to be so regarded is based upon the introduction by

him of an actor who came upon the stage and held discourse with the chorus and its leader.

Then came Aeschylus, who added a second actor to the dramatis personae; and finally

Sophocles, who gave a third, thus making the list of characters sufficiently extensive for

complete and complex actions. The chorus, however, remained; for it was deemed necessary

to fill the space between the acts of the drama with something which would sustain the

interest of the spectators. But Dionysus and his Bacchic crew of singers and satyrs were

banished from the stage. Instead of the revel and the feast the grave events of the

national traditions and history were brought forward as the subject of the play.

Then followed the improvement of the theater. From the time of the Persian wars regular

structures of stone took the place of the wooden buildings hitherto